Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (DTV)

(2008) * 1/2 R
105 min. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Director: Edward Neumeier. Cast: Casper Van Dien, Jolene Blalock, Boris Kodjoe.

/content/films/3155/2.jpgStarship Troopers is a movie that probably never should have had a sequel at any time. By most accounts Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation is a travesty, a horror experiment that retained scripter Ed Neumeier but jettisoned director Paul Verhoeven and all of the principal stars. Neumeier returns once more as writer, but that he's given the directorial reins as well provided some reason to hope. Besides, couldn't we use a good war satire right now? Starship Troopers 3: Marauder demonstrates Neumeier's ambition, but this budget-constrained rush job winds up not much more politically biting than a Mad magazine spread.

Shot on the cheap in South Africa, this South African-German co-production wisely grabs for the feel of Verhoeven's initial 1998 film in the easily spruced-up bite-size doses of Federal Network broadcasts ("Would You Like to Know More?"). That Neumeier goes to this well so often betrays his desperation, but there's a fair amount of amusing material here. Watch for the innovation of "one-click enlistment," including waiving of statutory rights, and the John Ashcroft-inspired concerts of one Sky Marshal Omar Anoke (Stephen Hogan), whose hit rendition of "A Good Day to Die" seamlessly segues into home-shopping ("It's always a good day to buy. Would you like to buy more?"). It's all part of the propaganda push for Bug War 2, raging on remote rock Roku San. Trench warfare is the order of the day, as ye olde Bugs, Scorpion-class pulse warriors, and kamikaze Bombardier Bugs pound away at the Federation compound.

Correcting a presumable error of Starship Troopers 2, the third entry brings back Col. John Rico (Casper Van Dien), whose square-jawed acting has not, I'm afraid aged like a fine wine. The wooden warrior welcomes to the Federation compound VIP Anoke and his keepers, Rico's old friend General Dix Hauser (Boris Kodjoe) and Rico's ex-lover Capt. Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock of Star Trek: Enterprise). Hauser and Beck are now an item, causing considerable tension that only worsens when all hell breaks loose within the compound (before that reversal, the trio perform with a scarily intense, weirdly forced cheer, like actors being held at gunpoint).

A Bug offensive sends Hauser, Beck, and Anoke into a retreat that strands the latter two on planet OM-1 and in need of rescue. Hauser discovers that corrupt Admiral Enolo Phid (Amanda Donohoe), seeing a political upside to the Sky Marshal's absence, would rather spread the lie that Anoke is dead than bother to rescue him. So Hauser gives Rico a secret squadron of mobile infantry and, to outfit them, a set of Marauder robo-armor. With this plot stroke, Neumeier incorporates an element of Robert Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers that was written out of the first film.

/content/films/3155/1.jpgIn a show of quantity over quality, Neumeier's satiric grab bag includes parodic versions of occupied Iraq (of the Roku San residents, Rico says, "They need us, but they don't want us"), Guantanamo Bay ("Alamo Bay," which holds televised executions), Ron Kovic (decorated veteran turned pacifist activist Elmo Goniff), and, well, the Bush Administration ("Death to War Protestors...If you're against the war, you're against us"). Perhaps most provocative is Neumeier's engagment of religion: though the government suppresses it, it emerges in surprising places. The climax has intimations of a true-believing holy war, and despite the graceless plotting, a close reading of this sequel will dig up Starship Troopers' implication that the Bugs are at least as admirable as the Federation and almost certainly more so.

Neumeier does the best he can on a shoestring and accelerated schedule. Always good value on a budget: gore effects. Sony sprung for Klaus Badelt to do the score, and some nice location lensing on white-sand dunes gives the movie a boost of production value as well. But the acting is more often terrible than good, and the chintzy sets and effects lack convincing texture. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder gets an "E" for Effort, but as we all know, "E" comes between "D" and "F."

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby True HD 5.1

Street date: 8/5/2008

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Released on Blu-Ray in tandem with its two prequels, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder gets a spiffy Blu-Ray special edition. A brand-new, HD-sourced transfer gives the movie a sharp look, with a very few odd distracting blips of blue (a quirk of the film's lighting or camera work?); the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround soundtrack isn't one of the best you'll ever hear, but it's solid and probably as good as one can expect from a low-budget production.

Tops among the Blu-Ray exclusives is the Marauder Mode, a picture-in-picture feature that frames the film in a FedNet-style frame, a pop-up window periodically appearing at the bottom right-hand corner with well-synced cast and crew "interviews, on-set footage and in-universe factoids" on the film's settings, spacecraft, and weaponry. Since this is a Sony disc, you also get the BD-Live hookup to more content on the internet. Specifically, Put Yourself in the Movie allows viewers to upload a picture to the Sony site and see oneself inserted into the film. This one's hard to imagine (and I haven't tried it), but have at it!

In the Featurettes category, you'll find "Evolution: The Bugs of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder" (11:32), which focuses on each of the new Bug species, with comments by Neumeier and seven members of the technical team. "Enlist! Marauder's Mobile Infantry" (13:55) is a broader, FedNet-style making-of featurette, with Neumeier, Van Dien, executive producer Claudio Faeh, Stelio Savante, Cecile Breccia, Jolene Blalock, Boris Kodjoe, Garth Breytenbach, stunt coordinator Anthony Mo Marris, military advisor David Botha, prop master Marc Melville, line producer Steve Beswick, production designer Sylvain Gingras, and Marnette Patterson.

Also included is Music Video "It's a Good Day to Die (Extended Version)" (2:40). And perhaps reasoning that someone who would buy Starship Troopers 3 on Blu-Ray would buy anything, Sony packs in nine previews: Prom Night, 88 Minutes, 21, Vantage Point, Dragon Wars, Resident Evil: Degeneration, The Fall, Untraceable, and Starship Troopers.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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